When law enforcement goes after someone, whether it is on a tip, from observing unusual behavior, or while executing a warrant, it can be a frightening experience. It can be hard to relate to someone in a uniform, especially when they act as if you are already guilty of a crime.
But even if you are facing an arrest and stiff charges, it is important to remember that whether you live in Oregon or elsewhere, you have constitutional rights and rights under the law that they cannot violate without consequences. Under the Bill of Rights and Article One of the U.S. Constitution, a suspect has important civil protections:
- The right to a fair trial, the right to legal counsel and protection against self-incrimination.
- Due process, fair and equal treatment under the law, and protection against prolonged detainment.
- Protection against unreasonable search and seizure and guarantee that evidence illegally obtained cannot be presented at trial.
- Protection against cruel and unusual punishment, even in capital punishment cases.
How do the laws protect police officers?
The job of law enforcement officers is to keep the peace, stop illegal acts and make sure that ordinary citizens have protection from illegal activity. When an officer acts with aggression or malice, however, their actions may violate a suspect’s civil rights.
Due to court rulings that took place during the 1960s and 70s, the courts established the concept of qualified immunity for law enforcement. Under this practice, there are limits to the financial liability that the officer may have in a civil lawsuit. The officer’s failure to exercise their duty of care is not enough to establish negligence in these cases, as the plaintiff must also prove that the officer acted in bad faith in intentionally violating the victim’s civil rights.
What laws protect suspects against police misconduct?
The primary federal statute against police misconduct for officers who are acting under the authority of state law is Section 1983, Title 42 of the U.S. Code. Under this law, victims of police brutality have protection against:
- False arrest
- Malicious prosecution
- Unreasonable or excessive force
Police officers also have a duty to protect citizens from misconduct by other officers. A failure to intervene can make them financially liable.
When facing the long arm of the law, it is essential to have every legal strategy available to protect your rights and fight the charges.